Review: 'Frankenstein’ told with both menace and beauty
In Chicago premiere of the late Liam Scarlett’s adaptation, Jonathan Dole powerfully conveys the hurt, twisted emotions and deep humanity of the creature brought back to life.
Kyle MacMillan, Chicago Sun-Times
October 13, 2023
Ethereal, elegant and uplifting. We know ballet can be all those things.
The visual imagery that most people have in their mind of “Frankenstein” comes from the 1931 film with Boris Karloff as the clunky, hulking monster. Any subsequent adaptation either has to embrace this depiction or offer a strong alternative.
This ballet opts for the latter, with the Creature depicted as a bald, light-skinned being with blood-stained, sewn scars running across his body. He is not so much a monster but an other, whose unsightly appearance makes him an outcast.
In one of the work’s pivotal scenes in Act 2, the Creature finally makes his full appearance with a long solo, at first seeming a bit ungainly and unsure but never clumsy as he rubs his hands over his body and tries to understand who he is. Then, he reads Frankenstein’s scientific notes and discovers how he was created, and his movements become convulsive and frantic as if he were trying to get out of his own skin. Dole brings enormous technical artistry to this role, but more important, he powerfully aconveys the hurt, twisted emotions and deep humanity of this lost being.
Amanda Assucena shines as Elizabeth, the fiancée and then wife of Victor, whose guilt-ridden decline is aptly conveyed by José Pablo Castro Cuevas. Other notable performances include the fleet-footed and acrobatic Xavier Núñez as Victor’s friend, Henry; Jeraldine Mendoza as the caring Justine, and a polished, convincing turn by Sheppard Littrell, a Joffrey Academy pre-professional, as William.
The rich, atmospheric, almost cinematic score, with its evocative use of piano, celeste and vibraphone, was provided by American composer Lowell Liebermann, and it is vividly realized here by the 54-piece Lyric Opera Orchestra and Joffrey music director Scott Speck.